Madonna, her children and a large entourage were reportedly forced to queue to check in and go through security with ordinary passengers at a Malawi airport terminal after the pop star was apparently stripped of her VIP status in the country.
The singer and her spokesperson were reportedly “very annoyed” at the change in protocol which – although unconfirmed by President Banda - was apparently prompted by a war of words between the Material Girl and the Malawian authorities.
Celebrities and heads of state arriving at Kamuzu International Airport are normally taken from and to planes by limousine and are given access to a special VIP lounge.
Malawi’s education minister Eunice Kazembe recently accused Madonna of exaggerating her charitable work in the country.
The pop star arrived last week with her two adopted Malawian-born children to tour ten primary schools which her charity said she had built. Mrs Kaembe told the BBC: "She has built classrooms at existing schools... really it's a difference in terminology.”
She continued: “They have said... they have built ten schools in Malawi and on our side what we know is that she [Madonna] has built classrooms... these are not schools from our side and really that's the essence of the difference between her side and the Malawi government.”
Madonna also reportedly requested an audience with President Joyce Banda, the country’s first female president, but this was ignored. Photographs of an informal letter reported to have been written by Madonna to the Malawian president, addressed “Dear Joyce..,” circulated this week, but a meeting between them was not arranged.
The singer’s spokesperson reportedly said President Banda was acting on a “grudge” because her sister Anjimile Oponyo was sacked as the CEO of Madonna’s charitable foundation, the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls, amid allegations of theft. All allegations have been denied by Ms Oponyo.
When Madonna arrived in Malawi last Monday with her children David and Mercy James, both 8, Rocco, 12 and Lourdes, 16, they didn’t have to queue and their luggage was handled by special staff and did not go through ordinary security screening.
But on Saturday Madonna and her 15 companions were not afforded the same treatment ahead of boarding her private Gulfstream jet.
"There was a directive that Miss Louise Ciccone, travelling on an American passport, and her children should use the ordinary passenger terminal on their way to their jet," a Department of Aviation source at Kamuzu International Airport told The Telegraph.
"Her manager Trevor Neilson and her security detail tried to negotiate but we told them we can't open the VIP lounge without authorisation… Madonna and Mr Neilson were very annoyed by this but her children, especially David, seemed to enjoy mingling with the ordinary people. David would stray to talk to other children and his mother used to call him back.”